What is coffee processing?

There is nothing better than the morning (or any other time of day) ritual of making the perfect cup of coffee. However you make it, be it aeropress, french press, drip, moka, or espresso machine, the careful curation that goes into every drop is something coffee connoisseurs pride themselves on. But how do we get from cherry to cup? A key part of this process, somewhere in between the growing and grinding is the processing part- a procedure shrouded in mystery with lots of lingo to wrap your head around. But don’t worry, Vicky Coffee has broken it down for you into much more manageable chunks, or sips for that matter.



In simple terms, coffee processing removes the layers of skin and sometimes flesh surrounding the coffee bean. This can be done in various ways, including by hand and using machines and other processes. Once the skin and flesh has been removed, the bean is left behind and then dried and further processed into the coffee that we know, love, and drink. There are several types of processing, all with their own individual outcomes, which suit different kinds of coffee connoisseurs.

Crop farmers with bamboo trays sorting dry coffee beans


As the name suggests, naturally processed coffee is done with minimal interference from machines and artificial factors. The coffee cherries are floated in water and sorted to remove any overripe fruit. They are then laid out on large, flat panels and dried in natural sunlight. The fruit is raked occasionally to prevent it from spoiling and raised panels are preferred to allow airflow. It takes between three to six weeks and produces a very fruity and very full taste when brewed.


Washed processed coffee is where the cherry is stripped of all fruit and then fermented and dried, resulting in a completely unique taste. This kind of coffee is often preferred as it has a very low acidity and has a more fruity, complex, brighter and consistent flavour which is sought after by many coffee connoisseurs.

Coffee Cherries
Washing Coffee Beans


Carbonic maceration is when coffee cherries are placed into a carbon-dioxide-rich environment, such as an airtight steel barrel, after being picked. They are then left to ferment, which sees the enzymes inside the fruit break down, releasing carbon dioxide and alcohol in the process. The result is a coffee bean with a rich and almost fruity flavour, harking back to the method’s origins as a way of processing grapes for wine. If you like coffee with a heady, intense, yet somewhat tropical flavours, then look for types that have been through this process.

Coffee Bean Harvest


This process is where the skin is completely removed from the coffee cherry while leaving the fruit’s flesh intact. The bean then dries with the sticky pulp in place, and it is somewhere between a dry and wet processing method.

Proponents of this method say it makes the coffee taste much sweeter than other kinds and creates a coffee with a higher quality and much more intoxicating aroma. It is, however, a more expensive and uses more water than other kinds of processing.


After being picked, the ripe coffee cherries are put into a demucilager machine which strips the skin off along with specified amounts of flesh. For example, white honey means that most of the flesh has been removed, while black honey means only the skin has been removed.

There are variations in between, each with different outcomes in terms of flavour, aroma and balance. Typically the flavour of honey-processed coffees is heavier bodied, with a hint of sweetness and medium-high acidity.

Now you know how it is processed, it is time to get your hands on some of our delicious, carefully sourced coffees. Check out our selection here and place your order online to enjoy delivery to anywhere in Malta or Gozo.